Whilst I was making my recent visits to Goatswood (see: Hera’s Goatswood returns to Second Life) and Whitby (see: Revisiting Hera’s Whitby in Second Life) on Hera’s home region, she informed me that she was working on another design, this one to occupy the Homestead of Island of Jahesa, which holder Kara Pendleton had once again kindly offers to Hera for her use. At the time, I was not expecting to hear more of the build – about which I promised not to say a word at the time – for another few weeks.
However, Hera contacted me on April 18th to let me know the build was finished – so I can now finally say that for her latest design, she brings use a place from George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire: the home of the Starks and former seat of The King In The North: Winterfell.
Sitting within a cold, sub-arctic climate with snowy winters and cool summers, its interior heat coming courtesy of the hot springs that run under its halls and buildings, Wintefell has been most famously visualised in the HBO series Game of Thrones. For that series, the castle was represented by a mix of visuals and places such as 16th century clock tower and ancient courtyard of Castle Ward and Saintfield Estates in Northern Ireland, Doune Castle, Scotland and studio-built interior sets – a broad mix of influences intended to represent the great castle fortress.
Hera takes all of this richness and transforms it in-world to a living embodiment of HBO’s vision for Winterfell. From its main gate through the high wooden turrets built atop stone towers to the walled godswood and its sacred red-leaved heart tree, passing by way of the warren-like alleys and courtyards clearly intended to confuse any enemy who breached the outer walls to leave them at the mercy of Winterfell’s defenders as they used the towers and raised walkways for defence.
Given this is a build located within a Homestead region, some of the castle has had to be condensed and the interiors are limited. Even so, Hera has created a build that captures the heart of Winterfell as seen in the TV series and gives a fair amount for visitors to explore.
From the landing point, the walls and towers of the castle can be seen rising above trees denuded of leaves as winter descends. Lights shine from the windows of the watchtowers either side of the main gates and great torches fixed to the wall illuminate the road as it reached the fortress, allowing those inside to see who approaches.
Inside the gates, visitors can step into the tavern where wall and gate guards warm and fortify themselves after a stint out in the cold before. Then, walking the outer alleyways and passages between the central keep within its connected towers and inner yards, it is possible to find the way to the courtyard and smithy where Rob Stark and Jon Snow practiced their skills with the sword, watched from above by their proud father. Outside of the main keep sits the tower of the castle’s warden within passing within it arched gate bring own to the great hall and the rooms of the Stark family and the library of the Maester and the tower where he kept his carrier crows.
Off to the north of the castle, across the sword training courtyard mentioned above, a square tower rises, guarding the route to the godswood, a path leading from the tower to where the heart tree rises. Lacking the carved face of a Weirwood tree, it is nevertheless impressive and fully captures the nature of Winterfell’s godswood as seen in the series.. Back within the castle proper it is possible to find another place of reverence: the catacombs below the castle, where Starks of the past are remembered.
At the time the HBO series first appeared, purists of the Game of Thrones book were critical as to how Winterfell was being represented compared to its descriptions in the books. Be that as it may, the exterior shots of the castle used in the show gave it a unique and striking appearance – and Hera has captured this perfectly in her work here.
More than that, she has superbly brought together what is a completely disparate group of locations in Northern Ireland and Scotland plus stage sets never intended to be seen as a whole in such a way as to present a genuine sense of wholeness and purpose for Winterfell as both a home to a proud warrior-family and as a fortress.
Designed to be seen under the region’s EEP settings created by Hera – I’ve intentionally used my own EEP settings in the photos here so as not to spoil the impact – this is another engaging and evocative build that should not be missed by anyone who appreciates Hera’s builds, fantasy or the HBO series Game of Thrones.
- Winterfell (Island of Jahesa, rated Adult)